by James Han
Remember the first time you got high — the coughing and sputtering, the waiting and finally the moment of recognition that you were stoned? Though cannabis rookies may have consistently powerful experiences from smoking weed, more seasoned connoisseurs will naturally build up a tolerance to the plant’s psychoactive effects. There are plenty of ways an enthusiast can try to enjoy their high at the fullest level: rotating strains, trying different consumption methods and even eating terpene-rich foods like mangoes before smoking.
Taking a “tolerance break,” or T-break, is another popular technique. But what are tolerance breaks in the first place? And do they actually work? We’ll share the latest research and tips every cannabis connoisseur should know.
Tolerance Breaks 101: What They Are and How They Work
You’ve likely already experienced tolerance outside of cannabis, with caffeine or alcohol. After a while, you start to notice diminished effects, and need to drink more coffee or have another glass of wine just to experience the same “buzz.”
When it comes to cannabis, the research behind tolerance — and why it happens — isn’t fully understood. When you enjoy a puff of a pen or bite an edible, THC binds to receptors in your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which oversees dozens of processes in your body, including a sense of balance, or homeostasis, between all your organs and systems. As a result, your body will desensitize and even internalize (or retract) CB1 receptors in your ECS if it’s overwhelmed from the amount of THC you’re consuming, just to nudge you back to center.
What Is a Tolerance Break, and Does It Work?
The term “tolerance break” pretty much defines itself: It’s a short-term break from cannabis to clear your system of THC (the intoxicating compound in cannabis that gets you high) and reset your body’s tolerance to it. According to science, T-breaks tend to work, though what they look like may vary from person to person. A study among cannabis users in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging found that CB1 receptors started bouncing back merely two days after cutting back on cannabis consumption.
How Long Does It Take To Develop Tolerance?
There’s no clear-cut timeline for building up a tolerance to THC, but factors like the frequency of your cannabis use, the strength of the cannabis and your own body makeup and biology all play a role. As a general rule, if you start to feel like you need more weed to feel the same effects, you’ve built up a tolerance.
Should You Take a Tolerance Break?
There are plenty of reasons you might want to take a T-break, and experiencing a fuller high is just one of them. If you’re on the job market (and may need to take a drug test), traveling to a place where you can’t take your cannabis, preparing for a big presentation or test or simply want to clear your head, a T-break can be a great way to temporarily recalibrate your relationship with cannabis and give you a newfound appreciation for its effects.
How To Take a Tolerance Break Effectively
There are a couple of ways to take an effective tolerance break, and some may work better for you than others.
- Two-day break. Since the receptors in your ECS start returning to “normal” after 48 hours, a two-day break from cannabis may be all you need to start experiencing your desired level of high again. This is a good option for cannabis connoisseurs who’ve been microdosing for a while, and can be repeated regularly (for example, a two-day break every 30 days).
- One-to-three-week break. Taking a one-to-three-week break from cannabis can help you shake up your routine and restore even greater sensitivity to THC, though you won’t hit baseline sensitivity yet. This is perfect for individuals who enjoy cannabis regularly, but not necessarily on a daily basis.
- Four-week break. For a complete reset, cannabis enthusiasts who consume weed every day will likely need to take a month-long hiatus from the herb. This is because THC and other compounds in cannabis can last in your body for more than 30 days. If you’re looking for a new job or might be screened in the foreseeable future, be sure to quit at least four weeks before.
Pro Tip: For cannabis connoisseurs who enjoy the plant every day — or even rely on it to help soothe stress and other conditions — stopping cold turkey may be jarring and leave you with mild withdrawal effects. Consider tapering down gradually or weaning yourself off THC-heavy strains with balanced blends of CBD and THC, such as Mistifi’s Phantom pen, with a 3:2 ratio of THC:CBD.
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging – Rapid Changes in CB1 Receptor Availability in Cannabis Dependent Males After Abstinence From Cannabis
Healthline – How To Reset Your Cannabis Tolerance